Dallas Cowboys: Why Earl Thomas is a better option than Landon Collins

Landon Collins #21 of the New York(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Landon Collins #21 of the New York(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

With reports of a renewed interest between Earl Thomas and the Dallas Cowboys surfacing, some fans are pounding the table for a different free agent safety…

While most Dallas Cowboys fans favor Earl Thomas as the best free agent safety to sign, a sizable portion of fans contend Landon Collins is a better free agent target. Here’s why  I respectfully disagree…

Landon Collins is the preferred option to many in Cowboys Nation. Maybe it’s the big games against the Dallas Cowboys. Maybe it’s the flashy interceptions. Maybe it’s those big hits at the line of scrimmage.  Heck, it’s probably all of those things.

And generally when comparing a 25-year-old free agent to a 29-year-old free agent, it’s easy to see why the ascending Collins is more attractive than the aged Thomas. But as we all know, the ages aren’t their only difference. The two players have vastly different games and it’s Thomas’ game that’s the far better fit in Dallas.

The Fit

By now everyone knows how Earl Thomas fits the Dallas defense. In case you want to hear my take, check out the story below:

Related Story. Why Earl Thomas is a perfect fit on the Cowboys. light

Landon Collins doesn’t fit nearly so neatly. First he plays strong safety. Strong safety is the easiest position to fill in Richard’s secondary. It’s like the 1-technique DT of the secondary. That doesn’t mean it’s a worthless position, it just means it’s generally easier to fill and usually filled with a cost conscious strategy.

The SS on the Dallas Cowboys needs both sure tackling and ability to perform man coverage. It’s not just because Dallas often uses a Big Nickel personnel group that uses three safeties, it’s that they also commonly match their in-the-box safety with TE coverage responsibilities.

Collins has the tackling ability that’s needed in Rod Marinelli’s 1–gap penetrating defense, but he’s hot trash in coverage. I know, I know – he had five interceptions in 2016. But in the two seasons since then, he’s only mustered two interceptions. Watching his coverage on the All-22 last season illustrates how much of a liability he is in coverage.

While Collins would be an easy swap for Jeff Heath at SS and allow Dallas to keep Xavier Woods at FS, Woods has the skill set to play SS if Earl Thomas is signed as the FS. Despite his size, Woods is the best tackler in the secondary and pretty thunderous at that. He’s also one of the Cowboys best coverage men inside matched up on a tight end or slot receiver (an important yet, underrated task that often falls on the SS).

Age, Injury, and Decline

Landon Collins has the obvious advantage here. Players are typically at their peak when playing on their second contract. Players are usually in decline when playing on their third contract. But I’d argue even Thomas’ decline is better than Collins’ peak.

Again, they play different positions but Thomas was last graded as the best safety in coverage and second best tackling safety in the game, while Collins clocked in as the 39th ranked safety (Pro Football Focus). Granted, PFF isn’t the end-all-be-all in player evaluation, but watch the tape on Collins. He has some cool highlights but most of it is shockingly pedestrian.

Additionally, the Giants ask their safety to do more in the running game than the Cowboys do. The Cowboys place an emphasis on the LB position while the Giants neglect the LB spot. In Dallas, the opportunities won’t be there for someone like Collins because Dallas’ LBs do more.

I often draw a parallel between Earl Thomas and Ed Reed since Thomas appears to be an Ed Reed clone. Like Thomas, Reed had two seasons where he uncharacteristically suffered injury and missed a fairly significant amount of time (4 games when he was 31 and 6 games when he was 32). Reed went on play complete 16-game seasons at age 33 and 34, and played at a high caliber throughout (noticeable decline at age 35).

Related Story. How much will Earl Thomas and Landon Collins cost in free agency. light

If Thomas signs a four-year deal like mentioned in the “Contract Expectations” article above, he would only be locked up with guaranteed money through age 32. As such, tales of the Dallas Cowboys getting stuck with him until he’s 35 are probably more fear-mongering than anything.

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A final important point to make is something I said back on February 6th. The Giants decided not to trade Collins in 2018 because they wanted to re-sign him. They have the money to franchise him if they need to but long-term is what they’re planning.

So while we know the Dallas Cowboys are front-runners to sign Earl Thomas, we don’t even know if Collins will hit the market.

The only way it makes sense to sign an expensive free agent strong safety or use a premium draft pick on a strong safety is if that player is an asset in coverage.  (Dallas will use their strong safety like Seattle used Kam Chancellor)

Next. Dallas Cowboys Complete Mock Draft (Reid 2.0). dark

Landon Collins is a liability in coverage. But since Woods is an asset, moving him to strong safety and signing Earl Thomas for free safety seems like the better way to go for Dallas. It’ll probably be cheaper too…

  • Published on 02/20/2019 at 12:01 PM
  • Last updated at 02/20/2019 at 11:21 AM